Japan’s Nozomi Tanaka wins historic women’s 3000 gold at IAAF U20 Championships

by LetsRun.com
July 11, 2018

For years, distance aficionados have seen the same thing happen so many times. A global women’s final begins and a couple of Japanese runners set off at an honest pace, gapping the field early before being swallowed up late.

Well today in the women’s 3000 final at the 2018 IAAF World U20 Championships, that familiar script had a surprising ending as no one caught Japan’s Nozomi Tanaka and she shockingly ended up winning gold in a personal best of 8:54.01 as Ethiopians Meselu Berhe and Tsige Gebreselema took second and third in 8:56.39 and 8:59.20 respectively. Japan’s Yuna Wada, who ran the first 2700 meters of the race with Tanaka, ended up foruth in 9:00.50.

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The Race

The two Japanese entrants started honestly from the gun and as they approached 800 meters (2:25.00), they had already gapped the field and it looked like this:

The Japanese gapped the field early

The Japanese gapped the field early

Their lead continued to grow and with 3 laps remaining it was approximately 7 seconds (we timed it at 7.63 seconds with 1250m remaining). A lap later, the lead had hardly been reduced as it was still roughly six seconds (6.54 on our watch with 850m to go). Surely the Ethiopians would eat into the lead big-time on the penultimate lap, right?


At the bell (7:48.36), Tanaka led by 4.8 seconds and she was full of run. As she came off the penultimate turn, she turned on the jets and left her compatriot Wada in the dust. The Ethiopians were coming but with 200 left (8:21.33), Tanaka still led by 3.8 seconds and she’d end up winning by more than two seconds (2.38) at the finish line thanks to a final lap of 65.65 and final 200 of 32.68 to close off a final km of 2:50.82 (her first km was 3:00.55 and the second was 3:02.64).


1 1796 Nozomi TANAKA JPNJPN 8:54.01 PB
2 1652 Meselu BERHE ETHETH 8:56.39 PB
3 1649 Tsige GEBRESELAMA ETHETH 8:59.20 PB
4 1797 Yuna WADA JPNJPN 9:00.50 PB
5 1810 Zenah Jemutai YEGO KENKEN 9:00.76 PB
6 1528 Amelia MAZZA-DOWNIE AUSAUS 9:09.19 PB
7 1630 Carla GALLARDO ESPESP 9:10.07 PB
8 1751 Nadia BATTOCLETTI ITAITA 9:13.45 PB
9 1638 Cristina RUIZ ESPESP 9:13.75 PB
10 1575 Taryn O’NEILL CANCAN 9:15.03 PB
11 1523 Lara CROUCH AUSAUS 9:16.28 PB
12 1959 Cailie LOGUE USAUSA 9:16.78 PB
13 1710 Josina PAPENFUS GERGER 9:18.39 PB
14 1973 Amanda VESTRI USAUSA 9:21.95 PB
15 1841 Katrina ROBINSON NZLNZL 9:22.80
16 1576 Cameron ORMOND CANCAN 9:27.51
17 1668 Astrid SNÄLL FINFIN 9:32.25 PB
18 1824 Lamiae HIMI MARMAR 9:41.32
1805 Mercy Chepkorir KIRAREI KENKEN DNS


1000m 3:00.55 Nozomi
2000m 6:03.19 Nozomi

Quick Take: What a great win for Tanaka

 Nozomi Tanaka , your champion

Nozomi Tanaka, your champion

Given the fact she led by nearly 5 seconds at the bell and how fast she closed, it would have taken a 60.7 last lap for the Ethiopians to beat her and there is no way that was going to happen. For comparison’s sake,when Mary Cain won in 8:58.09 in 2014, she closed in just under 63 seconds after the leaders hit 2k in 6:07. Today, Berhu ran 8:56.39 with a 63.3 final lap after hitting 2k in roughly 6:10 so her close was very similar to Cain’s in 2014 but she just had too much ground to make up.

Tanaka’s gold was historic as it was the first for Japan in the event. Additionally, she is just the second non-African to have won the women’s 3000 at the U20 championships in the last 20 years (Cain in 2014 was the other) and the first Asian winner since China’s Yin Li won in 1998.

We didn’t see the entire race on TV but are pretty confident that Tanaka led the entire final 2100 meters.

Talk about this crazy race on our world famous messageboard: MB: Official 2018 World U20s (AKA World Jrs) Thread.

Post-Race interview with Tanaka

In the interview above, Tanaka admitted she was surprised she won by very happy. Additionally, she told the IAAF, “The team strategy was to get out hard and dominate as much as possible,. We were really surprised the Ethiopians started so slow so we knew we had a good chance.”

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